Cubs Minors: New affiliates, league structure announced by MiLB

(Photo by B51/Mark Brown/Getty Images)
(Photo by B51/Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

Last year, the Minor League Baseball season was cancelled due to COVID-19. The 2021 season, should it take place, will offer some new affiliates and a revamped league structure – all dictated by MLB.

For the Chicago Cubs, their four top affiliates are familiar to fans. The Iowa Cubs remain the team’s Triple-A club, the Tennessee Smokies, Double-A, South Bend Cubs, High-A and Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Low-A. The Eugene Emeralds, which were previously a Low-A affiliate of Chicago, are now a High-A partner of the San Francisco Giants.

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Given the myriad of issues facing the sport at the big league level, more than a few folks were wildly unhappy to hear MLB was assuming control over MiLB, as well. In its release announcing the new leagues, structures and affiliates Friday, the league offered up some improvements that will be made for the 2021 season.

This includes player salary increases (which are long, long overdue), new facility standards and updates and, perhaps most notably, a dramatic realignment of the league structure that will cut down travel for teams and put more affiliates in closer geographic proximity to their parent clubs.

"“We are excited to unveil this new model, which not only provides a pipeline to the Majors, but continues the Minor Leagues’ tradition of entertaining millions of families in hundreds of communities,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “In modernizing our Minor League system, we prioritized the qualities that make the Minor Leagues such an integral part of our game while strengthening how we develop professional athletes on and off the field. We look forward to demonstrating the best of our game throughout local communities, supporting all those who are working hard to grow the sport, and sharing unrivaled technology and resources with minor league teams and players.”"

As for the Cubs’ affiliates, Iowa will play in the Triple-A East Midwest Division, along with the Triple-A clubs of the Indians, Pirates, Reds, Royals, Twins and Tigers. At the Double-A level, the Smokies will play in the four-team Double-A South North Division while at High-A, the South Bend Cubs will be a part of the West Division of High-A Central.

Cubs: Let’s hope MLB is up for the challenge of running MiLB

Given the team seems to be very, very close to a rebuild or re-tool, there’s definitely more attention on the farm system in Chicago. Top prospects like outfielder Brennen Davis or flamethrower Brailyn Marquez are now pegged as the future of the organization.

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As someone who’s worked for a minor league club, I can tell you an influx of cash and resources is hardly a bad thing. But as someone who lived in Des Moines and came to love I-Cubs games, a Manfred-led MLB calling the shots makes me very, very nervous.